“Bedlam,” is a kaleidoscoped magic carpet ride that encourages you to “see the music and taste the colors,” but laugh and dance as well. It’s the creation of California jazz trumpet legend turned composer/arranger, Jack Millman, working under the pseudonym Johnny Kitchen. Jack was the owner and operator of Music Industries, a vast sound library located just off the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. Music Industries provided the soundtracks to low budget exploitation pics, commercial films called industrials, UCLA student projects, and everything in-between. One day, Al Handelman, the young heir to a vast supermarket shelving fortune, walked into Millman’s office with a parrot perched on his shoulder. He wanted to make an album capturing the psychedelic experience. Millman looked at the parroted bohemian standing in front of him and remarked, “Everyone in this town is crazy!” From that The Crazy People were born! Soon after, Millman was contracted to produce a series of budget records for the Canadian based Condor Records and Millman and Handelman had the opportunity to bring the “Crazy People” project to life.
Digging into his vast sound collection Jack pulled out the most unusual material, recordings he’d collected but hadn’t known how and where to use. The end product is an irreverent and subversive collage, careening back and forth between fuzzed out acid rock, Dlyanesque folk/rock, Ellingtonian big band jazz, Latin jazz, Boogaloo, backyard chicken shack jams, and far out electronic transmissions from the world’s first “Interplanetary Space Society Band.” There are bits of John Cage-inspired prepared piano and even Ludwig Von Beethoven makes an appearance. These groovy vibrations are frequently augmented or interrupted by air raid sirens, cocks crowing, rockets blasting off, and other sounds of earth and beyond. Zappa-heads and devotees of outsider music will recognize the vocalizations of Wild Man Fischer who periodically bursts onto the scene chanting, “We’re the crazy people, We’re the crazy people!” There’s three spoken word pieces embedded inside the crazy quilt musical mash-up: an odd poem recited over light flute and piano jazz about a mythical Crete where “if you’re over six, you’re far too old.” A hilarious one-sided phone conversation that features a stuffed-up guy with a terrible “24 hour flu.” And finally, a sky-high pilot giving take-off instructions to a planeload of soon-to-be stoned passengers delivered alongside a Scarlatti harpsichord sonata.
“Bedlam” is an aural snapshot in time that features the sounds and pulsating energy of the Sunset Strip in 1968. Music from cutting edge bands like The Sound Machine and The Afro-Blues Quintet Plus One - bands that Jack produced - were already spilling out of the clubs up and down Sunset. Wild Man Fischer was just another character who ten minutes before he walked into Millman’s office was approaching strangers on the streets asking them, “Do you want to hear a new kind of song for a dime?” This was the “Bedlam” of Jack Millman’s world and it was wonderful.